Australian beauty blogger Belle Gibson is facing a steep penalty for what the government said was “lying.” Consumer Affairs Victoria’s legal counsel told the Federal Court on Thursday the maximum penalty of $1.1 million applies if the court accepts Gibson made five contraventions of consumer laws.
Belle Gibson, the disgraced beauty blogger made the false claim that she had brain cancer and was able to heal herself with all natural remedies. Ms. Gibson, who claimed that she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009 and given four months to live, took in more than $1 million in profits from her cookbook and app The Whole Pantry (which had been removed.)
At the time, Gibson told her fans that she’d balked traditional cancer treatment in favor of “clean eating” and juice cleanses. In April 2015, the 25-year-old admitted to The Australian Women’s Weekly that her claims were false. “No. None of it’s true,” she confessed. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet,” she said. Gibson even appeared on 60 Minutes to apologize for lying to her followers.
As well as the fake cancer claims, Consumer Affairs Victoria also accused Gibson of not passing on about $300,000 in promised charity donations. “The alleged contraventions relate to false claims by Ms. Gibson and her company concerning her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, her rejection of conventional cancer treatments in favor of natural remedies, and the donation of proceeds to various charities,” CVA said in a statement in 2016. Gibson has now been banned from making deceptive claims about her health in connection with well-being advice and was ordered by the Federal Court in April to pay $30,000 towards the legal costs of Consumer Affairs Victoria.
But a penalty of $1.1 million could still hit her as well. Consumer Affairs Victoria’s legal counsel told the Federal Court on Thursday the maximum penalty of $1.1 million applies if the court accepts Gibson made five contraventions of consumer laws.
Justice Debra Mortimer criticized Gibson for repeatedly failing to turn up to court. “I’m not aware of a case where this level of non-participation has occurred. There’s certainly no evidence of contrition or remorse,” Justice Mortimer said. “One view is that she is so embarrassed (that she won’t show)… another is that she is thumbing her nose at the court.”
Of course, Gibson should have refrained from being dishonest especially in her quest to make money. Unfortunately, everyone lies and has lied at some point, whether intentional or not and this has ignited a debate about free speech. It was ultimately up to consumers who took her advice to determine whether she was being truthful or not. Do we have the freedom to lie? Free speech is still free speech, and it still protects the lies of the government and media, yet it punishes a beauty blogger. Should she be punished so harshly? Or did the government overstep their bounds?
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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.